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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer (Review)

Adult, Womens Fiction, Contemporary, Chick Lit
Publication.Date  September 9th 2014
Published By:  Putnam
AuthorJulie Lawson Timmer

Five Days Left on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher via First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

"A beautifully drawn study of what is at risk when you lose control of your own life. Unique, gripping, and viscerally moving -- this impressive debut novel heralds the arrival of an extremely talented writer." —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Lone Wolf

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.
Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.


Mara looked at her own daughter and felt the familiar burning pain of incomprehensible loss sear through her body, from her core to the ends of her fingers and toes. How could she have spent her last few days consumed by the scorching agony of facing her last moments with her own child, and not have spent one second acknowledging that her parents had been shrouded in the same pain? She was not the only parent at this table who was losing her baby. 
Then she closed her eyes, bent her own head an made a silent wish that she had a god to believe in like Susan's family did. It would be a comfort to think there was something, someplace, after this. That there was a reason for her illness, that it wasn't merely the result of a random lottery drawing she'd lost at birth. That there would be some lesson in i all for Laks.
And, she thought, even if believing didn't bring her comfort, at least it would be nice to have someone to blame. 

    Honest, thoughtful, bold and beautifully tragic, Five Days Left is a story of impossible goodbyes, heartbreak, love and loss, and learning to let go. The story of life and death, relationships, bonds and choices. Profoundly affecting, memorable and insightful, this book made a huge impression on me and I know I won't be able to get it out of my head for a very long time. 

  The story follows two plot lines that, though separate from each other and dealing with different subject matter, are also connected at the core and intertwined in many ways. First we have Mara, a hugely successful workaholic lawyer and an adoptive mother to Lakshmi, who one day discovers she has Huntington's Disease. Mara has always strived to be independent. She worked hard to achieve hear carrier goals and was just as dedicated to her job, as she was to her husband and daughter, possibly even more. For Mara, being a burden to her family is the worst fate she can imagine, and so she made a promise to herself that when her symptoms get worse, she'll say goodbye to her loved ones and will end her life on her own terms. 

     Then there's Scott. Scott is a foster parent to a young boy removed from unsafe and unfit environment. He's also a soon-to-be father to a baby girl. Scott has a bit of a "savior complex" according to his wife, he works with troubled children and is very passionate about what he does. Maybe a bit too passionate, too dedicated and too engaged in it all. His time with the boy he and his wife took in is coming to an end, though. The boy's mother is coming out of jail and she is taking the boy back. 

     Both Mara and Scott have five days left. Five days with their loved ones. Five days to say their goodbyes. Five days to let go.

     Oh, what a great read this way! Parts of the story made me want to cry, other parts made me very uneasy, even scared and paralyzed with anxiety. The writing was very powerful. The observations and thoughts about life, love, family, and the meaning of it all - they all hit too close to home, making me consider and re-evaluate my own life, appreciate what I have and wonder what I'd do if something like this ever happened to me, or someone close to me. This was an eye-opening read for me. One that made me stop and think, but also one that filled my heart with all these overflowing emotions, hopes and fears. Fears, most of all, for sure. Some passages describing Mara's feelings and thoughts, and how she came to decide she'd rather end her life while still in control of it, rather than slowly wither away, stripped off of all her dignity, independence and freedom, these passages, they were so realistically drawn, they made me flinch and choke up. Mara's desperation, pain, anger, fear, humiliation, and a thousand other emotions she experiences in her last days, were all palpable and deeply penetrating. And they weighed heavy on my heart. Her story is a heartbreaking one but not one I'm completely unfamiliar with. Having witnessed Alzheimer's Disease first hand as a child, having watched my grand grandma's mind slip away before her body did, I can tell you the fear of hereditary diseases is very real and very overwhelming. They affect everyone in the family, not just the person who is dying. And the aftermath can be just as terrible as the sickness itself. I don't have to imagine a situation like the one described in Five Days Left, I've lived through one similar enough to tell you the author did a phenomenal job translating the feelings and making the characters so real, they become your extended family. In many ways, this book was too realistic, too powerful, too spot-on for me to read without having to pause and remind myself that it's "just fiction". 

     Mara's story was the one that affected me the most, though Scott and everything he went through was equally moving and gut wrenching. I'm a mom myself, and so I had no trouble relating to his situation. His desire to make his Little Man happy, to provide for him and make sure he had everything he needed, is something I, as a parent, know all too well. It was painful to read about the kid having to go back to his mother, who may or may not have been ready to actually take care of her own child. It was also very confusing, because as much as I wanted Scott to be able to keep the little boy and create a happy, healthy family for him, I also felt the kid needed his mother and I really needed her to be the mother she should have been all along. I needed to know the kid would be fine and no harm would come to him after going back home. I really wanted a happy ending for him.

     This has been a very emotional read for me. A journey that changed my life a bit. An experience I will treasure for always. And while I can't promise you will feel the same about Five Days Left, I can certainly promise you this is a book worth adding to your reading pile. It's a mature and heart wrecking read, yes, but it's also just a very well written, captivating story about how sometimes love means letting go, how in some cases holding on can do more harm than good, and how deciding what is better is a journey in itself.

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